ESSI Bulletin #05: ESSI's 2023 - A Year of Achievement

The ESSI logo featuring satellites above Earth
Category: Policy Making, Industry, Public

29 December 2023
It seems scarcely possible that the end of the year has arrived. Thanks to the catalysing funding of the UK Space Agency, and the tremendous support of industry, academia, finance and industry across the world and international institutions, ESSI has achieved an enormous amount this year.

            In June, the Memorandum of Principles for Space Sustainability was written, widely consulted upon and published. The document is effectively a manifesto of the work that ESSI plans to do to establish the space sustainability principles and oversee their elevation into the form of globally recognised standards. It has now been signed by 132 organisations and individuals around the world, who have pledged to support the work.

            Following its publication at The Global Leaders on Space Sustainability Symposium, which took place on 28 June at the Royal Society, London, work on the ESSI principles began. At the behest of then science minister George Freeman MP, the ESSI team moved to develop, draft and publish the first two standards consulting with the British Standards Institute (BSI).

            The ESSI team proposed to adopt the Flex Standard approach. Instead of an extensive period of research and private consultation, a Flex Standard could be produced quickly, often in a matter of months, from a sufficiently well researched and written base document. It would then be published as a standard and publicly consulted on, revised and re-published until it coalesced into a stable configuration.

            The Flex Standard approach had been designed for subject areas that are moving quickly and would benefit from such a real-time iterative approach but to kick the standards off quickly and efficiently, they would need high quality base documents.

            The core ESSI team came together and decided: challenge accepted.

            During the summer, the team and a number of key collaborators set about researching and writing the base documents for the Launch Principle, the Dark Skies Principle. Work also began on taking the Memorandum text and extending it into a Framework Principle that would form an umbrella standard for the family of space sustainability standards to follow.

            By late September and early October, the Framework Principle and the Launch Principle were ready for submission to the BSI, thus fulfilling the Ministerial request of two standards kicked off by the autumn.

            The work on the Dark Skies Principle will now continue, and work will begin on the Rendezvous and Proximity Operations Principle in parallel with the BSI’s work on the first two.

            In tandem with the research work, ESSI’s industrial communications and international engagement programme has seen members of the core team speaking about ESSI’s work to conferences such as: the International Astronomical Union Symposium 385 on Astronomy and Satellite Constellations: Pathways Forward; the 19th Appleton Conference; Global MilSatCom 2023; UN Science Summit; the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) Outer Space Security Conference 2023; the UN Space Law Technical Advisory Missions to Costa Rica and to Chile; Defence and Security Equipment International Conference; the UK Space Conference 2023; the Lord Mayor’s Coffee Colloquy at Mansion House; and the UK-Africa space technology tour organised by Innovate UK and Research and Innovation Systems for Africa (RISA), and facilitated by the Research Institute of Innovation and Sustainability (RIIS).

            It is fair to say that the level of interest and support that has been given to ESSI from space industry, academia, the worlds of finance and insurance, international institutions and across government from Department of Science Innovation and Technology, Department for Transport and the UK Space Agency has been overwhelming.

            The first inroads into the UK public consciousness were taken with ESSI being featured in the Space Boffins podcast and in the pages of BBC Science Focus magazine. And this is just the beginning.

            In 2024, the first conference solely dedicated to ESSI and its work will take place. March sees the Royal Aeronautical Society hosting the Leading Global Change through the Earth & Space Sustainability Initiative (ESSI) on 12-13 March at their London headquarters. This will be followed later in the month by an international workshop to discuss ESSI’s approach to space sustainabilty at UNIDIR, Geneva; and a webinar for the Institution of Engineering and Technology on new space standards for sustainability, space, and space weather.

            Last but certainly not least, this year has also featured all the behind the scenes work to set up ESSI’s governance and structure in the most robust way possible. This has been long and painstaking and we thank everyone involved for their patience. The Executive Committee and Advisory Board will be announced in the New Year.

            Thanks to the continued engagement from the UK Space Agency space sustainability team, ESSI now has a clear direction of travel for 2024. There is a lot of work to do, but the industrial support and increasingly international support that is coming our way makes us confident that we can achieve everything we have set out to do.
            Thank you for being on this journey with us - see you in 2024!

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